North West Highlands Geopark Annual Report 2021

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Annual Report 2021 Prepared for the Annual General Meeting 23rd October

Welcome! The North West Highlands Geopark is one of the most the most beautiful landscapes in the world, one of only seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK and the birthplace of modern geology. Across it’s 2000km² area, there are just 2400 adults on the electoral roll. This is one of the most sparsely populated landscapes in Europe, but our Vision is for the region to become:

a thriving and sustainable rural economy capitalising on the assets and people of the Geopark in partnership with local government, relevant agencies and local businesses. The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is a Social Enterprise and a Charity that manages our UNESCO Global Geopark status. Being a Global Geopark is very similar to being a World Heritage Site. Our Geopark is unique for being managed by a community-led Charity. Geopark stories are powerful things, they can evoke a sense of wonder amongst visitors, inspiring them to want to take care of the landscape. They can inspire young minds, and the not-so-young, to learn more about how the planet works and how this affects our daily lives and our culture. They can bring people together, with a shared sense of identity. They can even provide the basis for economic development where stories inspire crafts, products and services. To help us continue telling these stories well, the Charity needs sound governance and the support and interest of the communities it serves. This report contributes to that aim, communicating to you, our stakeholders, the activities of the past year and our intentions for the coming three.

Contents Welcome Forward from our Chair Our Mission and Values Our Strategy 2020 -2030 Our Achievements Our Plans Revalidating our UNESCO Global Geopark Our Team Annual Accounts Impressum North West Highlands Geopark Ltd Charity number


Company number


Registered address

The Rock Stop Unapool By Lairg Sutherland

© North West Highlands Geopark Ltd, 2021 For queries please contact

Cover photo: ‘Pottery’ by Kat Martin & Marc Campbell. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Forward from our Chair I hope you find this report informative, and please feel free to share it with anyone who is, or might be, interested in our work. While we all think of the Global Geopark as the place, the area would be much diminished if it were not for the people who live, work, visit, play and learn here. As a Charity, the North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is trying to act as a force for good, within the bounds of our objects and the UNESCO framework, to help make it an even better place to do all of these things. Below, you will read more about what we have done in the recent past and what we hope to achieve in the near future. As you go through our stories, please think about what we have done well, where we might improve and come up with your own ideas of things we might implement. And then tell us, while we can't promise what we might do, we can promise to keep trying to do better. I also want to take the opportunity to thank our volunteers, our staff, contract staff, the Board and you the members for everything they have done to make 2020/2021 as successful as it has been. We have a fantastic team, who have met the challenges of the last year head-on, with a great mix of hard work, enthusiasm, challenge, humour and support.

Dr Iain Young

Chair North West Highlands Geopark Ltd Photo: ‘Fisherman’s boat Loch Lurgainn’ by Tim Hamlet. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Image: ‘Looking up into Loch Uidh Tarraigean’ by Charlotte Watters. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Our Mission To deliver physical, print, and digital assets and events that will help residents and visitors alike better appreciate, learn about and conserve the physical and cultural landscape of the Geopark thereby helping sustain the local economy.

Our Values We are geo-ethical The North West Highlands is a unique, special, and sensitive environment. People exist as part of a wider earth-system and we all have an obligation to act sustainably.

We are respectful We respect each other within our own organisations and foster open communication, and a safe environment. We respect other businesses, visitors, our communities, and other stakeholders and listen to their concerns and feedback. Professional, respectful, and ethical behaviour is expected from all associated with the Geopark. We reserve the right to challenge behaviour that does not meet these standards.

We are creative We look for creative solutions to the challenges to achieving our vision for the North West Highlands Geopark and to building a strong organisation.

We are inclusive We will be as transparent in our activities as possible. We will be open-minded and seek to understand and empathise with those different to ourselves. We will examine own biases and behaviours to avoid stereotyping. We will work collaboratively with others and build upon partnerships, sharing information and knowledge in the pursuit of achieving our vision for the North West Highlands Geopark.

Photo: ‘Art 2’ by Kat Martin & Barbara MacLeod To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Our Strategy 2020 -2030 Our strategy comprises six strategic objectives: Promote the Geopark, in particular to partners, the local community, visitors and those seeking knowledge of the area’s geology


Conserve and enhance our geological heritage and promote and engage in the discussion of broader environmental issues


Encourage awareness of, and educate about, the geodiversity, historical, cultural and economic importance of the area, and encourage further geological and related research


Work closely with businesses, educational groups, voluntary and statutory agencies to generate further employment and environmentally responsible and sustainable economic activity within the Geopark


Develop such systems, management structures and methodologies as are required to implement these strategic objectives


Secure and maintain a pipeline of future funding


Our Achievements • • • •

Opened the Rock Stop for the 2021 season Presented the work of the NWHG at the Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands event Invited Members of the Scottish and UK Parliaments to join the NWHG Charity

Presented the work of the NWHG at the joint Geologists’ Association and Edinburgh Geological Society Conference Took part in the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape end of scheme conference


Wrote to Ariane Burgess MSP to explain the work of the NWHG, to explain that it already makes a contribution to the Outcomes expected of National Parks and make a case for policy support and core funding.

Our Achievements •

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Photo: ‘Landscape’ by Chris Puddephatt To

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Completed research into the impacts of tourism on the Global Geopark and some of its key geosites. The report is available here: Participated in the North West Highlands Regional Land Use Partnership Pilot Thanks to funding from The Highland Council and NatureScot’s Better Places, Green Recovery program we: o Employed a seasonal Durness Geopark Ranger o Gave away free ‘Campers Poo Kits’ to help alleviate pressures at sensitive sites o Compiled a Touring Leaflet for visitors together with interactive maps on our website to help visitors plan their journeys and make more responsible choices o Installed bike racks at Smoo Cave to encourage sustainable travel Took part in the steering group to create a UNESCO National Trail as part of the work of Visit Scotland, designed to attract thoughtful, slower tourism Took part in the UNESCO Global Geoparks Climate Action workshop with representative from the Highland Council ‘Highland Adapts’ team

Our Achievements • •

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Produced a new video, with funding support from NatureScot, telling the story of the Highland Controversy: With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Garfield Weston Trust through the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape we; o Published the Walker’s Guide to Coigach and Assynt o Created a Sense of Place toolkit for Coigach and Assynt: o Developed the Local Guide to Coigach and Assynt mobile phone app Engaged with between 150 and 200 individuals at each of our five online zoom lectures as part of the Geoheritage festival Despite Covid postponements and restrictions there were two Geotours in 2020 and three in 2021 with a total of 52 participants. Extended the friends scheme to 134 individuals Led five walks at Knockan Crag involving 42 participants Participated in the Scottish Geology trust festival including 70 P5 - P7 pupils from Ullapool with a Beach Pebble and follow up indoor session. Engaged with at least 12,000 people at the Rock Stop. Developed a Soil Fieldwork Guides for High School pupils (Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape program and the University of Stirling) Contributed to the Coigach Geotrail update (Work delivered by Visit Coigach, funded by Coigach Community Development Company).


Photo credit: Visit Scotland/ Airborne Lens

Our Achievements • • •


Created a network of 53 business partners, "Ambassadors" and "Supporters" Took part in the steering group developing the NorthWest2045 Vision Worked with the Scottish Geology Trust to raise awareness of the Inchnadamph Lodge Field Centre sale and submitted a stage 1 Scottish Land Fund bid in an attempt to ensure continued use for education and the community. Established initial working relationships with more academic institutions, including graduate project placements with the University of Glasgow MSc programs in Earth Futures and Environmental Futures.

Our Achievements • • • • •

Completed the National Lottery Heritage Funded transformation project Reviewed and refreshed our business plan and working groups structure Implemented new governance tools including a Scheme of Delegation Engaged new staff members to build the capacity of the Charity Developed a new activity program: o “Access, Connect and Take-part (ACT) in the North West Highlands Geopark”

PROJECTS Marine heritage trail Pilgrims’ Trail Ambassador networking and training program Artist- in-residence Sense of Place project Storytelling through photography Young geologists club School Enrichment Marine heritage infrastructure Loch a’mhuillin path improvements Kinlochbervie path improvements Rethought interpretation

OUTCOMES The landscape and seascape of the Geopark are better interpreted and their stories are more widely known


More people, and new audiences can better explore, enjoy and Local people are engaged in telling understand the the story of their heritage landscape and its stories in ways which engage Young people from the area appreciate their geodiversity and communities and engage in it more fully support the local economy.

The landscape and the sea are more accessible to more people and diverse audiences can discover and enjoy the landscape


Photo: ‘Fire’ by Kat Martin & Marc Campbell. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Photo: ‘Kite’ by Tim Hamlet. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Our Achievements • • •


Developed project ideas through their initiation and pre-funding phases, ready for targeted fundraising. Engaged a fundraising professional to provide extra capacity and support. Successful funding bids, including full cost recovery for the charity, for; o An administrator (The Highland Council HERO program) o A new projects officer (Highland Council HERO program) o Slow tourism research (NatureScot) o Highland Controversy Video and (NatureScot) o Geology of the Summer Isles banner (NatureScot) o Durness Geopark Ranger (NatureScot) o Smoo Cave Bike Racks (NatureScot) o Touring Essentials Leaflet (NatureScot & The Highland Council) o Interactive Maps (NatureScot) o Campers Poo Kits (NatureScot) o Marine Heritage Trail Consultation (The Highland Council) o Fundraising support (Scottish Government Adapt & Thrive program) o Improvements to the Rock Stop (Scottish Government Adapt & Thrive program) o A new Scourie Geopod (North Highland Initiative, EBS Scotland & Highland Coastal Communities Fund) o A new website for a marine heritage trail (Highland Coastal Communities Fund) o A marine heritage trail leaflet & learning resources for local schools (Highland Coastal Communities Fund) o Lochbroom and Tongue Geopods (Highland Coastal Communities Fund) o A training programme for local businesses about how to capitalise and help promote sustainable tourism (Highland Coastal Communities Fund)

Our Plans • • • •

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Secure funding for our ACT Geopark program. Upgrade the Rock Stop to ensure all our exhibits can open in a Covid safe manner Enhance the exterior space at the Rock Stop Take ownership of the new ranger hut at Clachtoll on land leased from the Highland Council (Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape program) Publish a booklet, video and exhibition on the Soil Fertility Research Project (Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape program and the University of Stirling) Continue and extend the geoheritage festival into a year round activity programme also continue to develop our participation in Scottish Geology Trust festival in 2022 Further development of the working relationship with the British Geological Survey, universities and researchers Consider how the NWHG can contribute to the UK UNESCO Global Geoparks Climate Action activities Develop partnerships with community groups, schools, businesses, land-owners, NGOs and public sector bodies Make firm plans to deliver retention of UNESCO Global Geopark status for the North West Highlands at its revalidation mission by UNESCO in 2023

Photo: ‘Kite’ by Tim Hamlet. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Revalidation Our UNESCO Global Geopark status is due to be revalidated in 2023. Our team continue their work to address the recommendations from the 2019 revalidation mission by UNESCO: 1. Review our resources and team to ensure that adequate funding is available to sustain territory management. 2. Consider the opportunity to re-define our boundaries to include the full administrative boundaries of the 7 communities. 3. Develop a partnership strategy which includes clear methodology and criteria on becoming a partner, outlining the associated agreements with the Geopark. 4. Consider improving our brand identity and visibility at Smoo Cave, Knockan Crag and upgrading the self-interpreted trails network, Smoo Cave parking area, Information Point and new Geopark Centre in Scourie. 5. Consider strengthening Geotourism, by creating package offers using our branding (combining both NWHG Ltd and partner activities) to include guided tours, activity tourism and self-guided outdoor activities. 6. Strengthen NWHG Ltd’s role in coordinating and standardizing strategies for local development agency engagement. On our current trajectory, we are confident that we shall be able to achieve ‘green card status’ although there is still much work to complete ahead of the mission. The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed progress towards some of these goals as our attention, and that of our partners has quite rightly been focused on responding to this emergency. We will continue to participate in the Global Geoparks Network as one of our duties as the managers of the UNESCO Global Geopark. The next meeting is scheduled for March 2022 in De Hondsrug UNESCO Global Geopark in the Netherlands. To find out more about UNESCO Global Geoparks and the Global Geopark Network, visit these links: and

Our Team 2020 - 2021 Board

Photo: ‘kite” by Tim Hamlet. To use this, and more images from the Geopark visit

Volunteers and Staff

Dr Laura Hamlet

Alison MacPherson

Pete Harrison

Geopark Manager

Geopark Administrator

Geopark Geologist and Geotour Guide

Dr Matthew Withey

Fraser Gibb

Chris McNeill

Dr Tom Bradwell

Geopark Fundraiser

Durness Geopark Ranger

IT Support

European Geoparks Network Coordination Committee Rep

We would also like to thank all of our incredibly hard-working staff and volunteers whose efforts have allowed the opening of the Rock Stop Exhibition and Cafe in 2021: Dave Williams Keith Williams Jonathan Archer Jean MacKay Angela Williams Alison Murray Ann MacLeod Murdo MacPherson Crawford Hunt David MacLeod

Photo credit: Visit Scotland / Airborne lens